Last week, Oslo’s new 13-storey Munch Museum opened, home to 26,000 paintings, and providing spectacular views across the harbour. Earlier this year, Norway’s new National Museum also opened in Oslo, bringing together art from four different collections.
The waterfront, once home to docks, sheds, and cruise terminals into a stylish area of sparkling glass apartments, buzzy restaurants, and pedestrian walkways.
Over the last 20 years, the city’s population has increased by nearly 40%. Oslo has three universities, one business school and more than 15 higher education institutes.
Oil and gas have helped to make Oslo a wealthy and dynamic city. Without the fjord and surrounding mountains, much of the city would be unrecognisable from 50 years ago. A new business district in Bjørvika, constructed on a former duck in an industrial area, looks exactly like a barcode. Each of the 12 tall buildings has been designed by a different architect.
Demand for software engineers is high, especially in green tech, the circular economy and maritime services. Oslo is ranked second worldwide in maritime innovation for startups and third highest for low-carbon tech.
Younger and smaller than Stockholm or Copenhagen, Oslo’s startup ecosystem is growing faster than its Nordic neighbours. “Over the last decade, we have gone from 2-3 to over 50 professional startup hubs like accelerators, industry clusters and co-working spaces,” says Siw Andersen, Oslo Business Region’s CEO.
The city has also generated six tech unicorns, each valued at over $1 billion – Kahoot!, Oda, Dune Analytics, Gelato, Autostore and Cognite.
In 2019, as the European Green Capital, the City of Oslo reconfirmed plans to be climate neutral by 2050. The goal is to cut emissions by 95% by 2030.
Oslo wants to make all municipal construction projects zero-emission by 2025. Private companies who bid to win contracts receive extra points if they use zero-emission equipment.
All municipal projects have used sustainable biofuels since 2017, reducing Oslo’s total construction sector emissions by almost 20%. A completely new district, Hovinbyen, still under construction, is being built with circular construction solutions.
Global responsibility and Soft Power
Oil revenues have made Norway an influential democratic power and given it a place on the world stage. In addition, observes Johan Brand, the investor and co-founder of Kahoot!, “The school system has helped to foster a sense of global in young Norwegians, particularly after educational reforms in 1994.”
At We are Human, a social and environmental investment fund and accelerator Brand co-founded in 2010, Brand is trying to encourage entrepreneurs who share this sense of responsibility to plough it back into society and the environment. Startups have a big part to play in this movement – and their country needs them.
“We’re trying to help people think about electric propulsion and navigation and develop the brains for flight control,” he adds. “Norway will only survive through its soft power.”